Bhima Koregaon: SC Issues Notice to NIA on Navlakha’s Bail Plea

Gautam Navlakha had moved the SC against the Bombay HC’s rejection of his bail application on 8 February.

Updated
India
2 min read
Gautam Navlakha
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The Supreme Court on Wednesday, 3 March, issued a notice to National Investigation Agency (NIA) in a plea moved by activist Gautam Navlakha seeking default bail in the Bhima Koregaon case.

Navlakha has been in custody since April 2020 for his alleged involvement in the 2018 Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case.

On Wednesday, hearing Navlakha’s bail plea, the apex court asked the NIA to respond by 15 March.

The activist had moved the apex court on 19 February gainst Bombay High Court’s rejection of his bail application on 8 February 2021.

Navlakha’s bail plea stated that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) failed to file its chargesheet within the prescribed upper-limit of 90 days as per Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

The Case

Navlakha is one of the 11 activists, academics, and lawyers who were accused of Naxal links and giving inflammatory speeches at Pune’s Elgar Parishad meet, which instigated the violence in Bhima Koregaon on 1 January 2018.

He, among others, was booked by the Pune Police under the contentious Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, which has extremely stringent conditions for grant of bail stipulated under it.

Subsequently, the case was transferred to The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is still probing the case.

Events So Far

After a special NIA court on 12 July, 2020, dismissed Navlakha’s default bail, the activist approached the Bombay High Court.

Navlakha’s senior counsel Kapil Sibal had submitted that a court-ordered house arrest in 2018 had restricted the activists’ movement and should be counted as part of his judicial custody, making his plea for default bail under Section 167 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) valid.

On 16 December 2020, the HC had reserved its ruling on Navlakha’s plea after hearing all arguments.

However, a bench comprising Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik had dismissed Navlakha’s bail application, saying, “We have gone through the NIA Court order. We see no reason to interfere in the same.”

Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, who had represented the NIA, argued that Navlakha's house arrest could not be included in the time spent in the custody of police or NIA, or under judicial custody.

Further, he said that while the Pune Police arrested Navlakha in August 2018, he was not taken into custody. Navlakha was under house arrest and the Delhi HC quashed the order and freed him, granting him relief in October 2018.

It was only in April last year that he was handed over to the NIA, after the FIR against him was re-registered in January 2020.

Raju stated, "He was a free man till April 2020. He was neither on bail nor in custody. There cannot be a gap in the custody and detention period,” PTI quoted.

(With inputs from PTI and Bar & Bench)

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